GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Los Angeles Kings might have gotten the best of “The King” himself, but New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has no regrets about how he played in the Stanley Cup finals.
“I feel like there’s no regrets,” Lundqvist said Monday. “I feel like I prepared the right way and played the way I wanted to. You can always look back and say, ‘I should’ve done this [differently] in different situations.’ But overall I feel like I just need some time to reflect and I’m gonna be happy with this season.”
Lundqvist advanced to the finals for the first time in his nine-year career. He was happy about that. He just wasn’t happy to lose.
The 32-year-old, after all, has already accomplished so much. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2012 and is the only goaltender in NHL history to record at least 30 wins in each of his first seven seasons. He holds the Rangers’ franchise records for regular-season (309) and playoff wins (43). He even captured a gold medal for Sweden in 2006. Still, his first Stanley Cup title has eluded him so far.
Not that it’s Lundqvist’s fault or anything. He got off to a really poor start in 2013-14. In December, he made 10 starts, posting a 3.08 goals-against average and an .889 save percentage. But then the calendar turned, and everything changed. Lundqvist went from playing ordinary hockey to playing extraordinary hockey once again.
He closed out the regular season by going 21-9-3. He also backstopped Sweden to a silver medal at the Olympics in Sochi.
In the playoffs, Lundqvist turned it up another notch. He won a pair of Game 7s. In Pittsburgh, Lundqvist had arguably his finest game as a Ranger, making 35 saves -- 13 of them in the third period -- to lead his team to the Eastern Conference finals. Then, in Game 6 against Montreal at Madison Square Garden, he made arguably the finest save of his career, twirling, dropping his stick and stoning Thomas Vanek with his blocker in the second period.
Lundqvist wound up allowing 15 goals during the finals, but his save percentage was .923. In the last two games, he allowed just four goals on 92 shots. He was truly terrific, performing valiantly in defeat.
“I really tried to challenge myself to leave everything out there,” Lundqvist said. “You learn a lot from it and you appreciate those moments, for sure, but it’s gonna be a couple weeks now where it's gonna hurt a little bit, there’s no question about it.”
Lundqvist’s seven-year, $59.5 million extension kicks in starting in 2014-15. He has proven himself as the face of the franchise. Still, he wants that title. That’s why he remains so dejected -- even now.
“You marvel at the way he plays, but you want to drive right behind him and excel at your game,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “He leads by his play, his play speaks for itself and his passion to win and his passion to get better every year is unbelievable.
“This is my fourth season with him and he continues to amaze me with what he does out there and he understands the expectations every year here that we wanna be a championship team, and he’s gonna be the reason for sure one day.”